State of the Meta—American Folk/Esper Durdles

Getting into Modern as a new player/returning player can be a real drag. There is a barrier to entry the format has that can be off-putting if you haven’t decided to get serious about being a competitive grinder. I’m coming up on one year since I re-mounted this cardboard monkey and the addiction is stronger now than I think it’s ever been. Lucky for me, the side effects have been out and out good things. New friends, steady writing, even a financial back-up plan, have all been great reasons to keep untapping. Like I said, coming back to the game a year ago I was ready to invest in Standard, but going Modern was a little more of a slow build. One of the first decks I bought was Merfolk. The original decklist was U/W with Paths as the only white cards and just tons of Merfolk Lords and Æther Vial. Surprisingly, the deck had some good match-ups vs other decks that ran blue. Islandwalk can be a real threat. And as we all know in these tribal decks, “The threat density is too damned high!”

Well, Modern single prices (not unlike my heating bill this winter) continue to steadily climb. I moved to decks I thought could beat other decks in the meta. But David “Bones” McCoy recently borrowed my Merfolk to try to build a U/R version of the deck. He wasn’t impressed. But this got my wheels turning. I tried to build a Merfolk sideboard that could handle the various weaknesses the deck had.

Problem 1: Affinity

It’s a tough race to win in the U/W version. The Paths just weren’t enough to stop Cranial Plating from killing me after a couple turns.

Vandal Blast makes for a good spot removal card for the bombs like Plating. And though it’s a sorcery we can instant speed removal the carriers with Paths and Lightnings while we build up mana for the blow out.

It’s a race to be sure, but it’s not impossible to win, and with four Vandalblast in the board we have a good chance of winning this one.

Problem 2: Jund

With BBE banned I had hoped this match-up would fall to the wayside. So much removal and card for card it’s a better deck. Their lack of Islands really hurts us and Tarmagoyf is a hard nut to crack.

+2 Path to Exile, +3 Spreading Seas, -2 Phantasmal Image, -2 Merrow Reejerey, -1 Cursecatcher

In comes two more Path to Exile and some Spreading Seas. Jund’s manabase is its real weakness. Keep them off a color and draw and get Islandwalk going. Bobs can be a pain but you have answers for him. You can bring in Rest in Peace to negate Deathrite Shaman, the card they should have banned in modern instead of the marginally less destructive BBE.

It’s gonna be tough but remember you have direct damage. If you keep that on the low Jund tends to dip low into the life count before establishing dominance. You have the early beats, make him/her the control player.

Problem 3: Eggs

Short of having all your counters available in game one, things looks pretty bleak vs this deck. Your creature removal is trash but post-board you have a lot to work with.

-4 Lightning Bolt, -4 Lightning Helix, +2 Rest in Peace +2 Stony Silence, +2 Counterflux, +2 Vandalblast.

Having two different “You can’t go off til you deal with this” permanents in play is a hard thing to deal with for Eggs. They’ll need two Echoing Truth. Meanwhile you can play your dudes off Æther Vial to keep the pressure up. If the Eggs player gets sloppy killing a spellbomb on your turn (or all his artifacts) usually can get a scoop from them. It’s all about aggressively mulling. Also don’t let them know you have mondo hate. Generally, they like to cast silence then go off. Spell Pierce even with their mana available is many times enough to stall the combo. They need every mana they can generate. After Silence is gone and they don’t go off, keep countermana up. They can’t afford to brick twice. Remember your Cursecatchers, they are easy to forget.

A final way to shore up the weaknesses in a deck is to buy fetches to add a color. I know it doesn’t make the prohibitive cost of Modern easier to bear, but it does make your early cheapo deck a force in the current meta. As with most things in this game, knowledge of match ups is important. If you know where and when to take the initiative and make an attack run on the Death Star, you won’t end up repeating a Hoth-sized mistake (to use a Star Wars reference that will make my girlfriend smile).

American Folk

60 cards, 15 sideboard

Lands
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Mutavault
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Steam Vents
1 Island
2 Sacred Foundry
4 Arid Mesa
2 Cavern of Souls

Creatures
4 Silvergill Adept
4 Cursecatcher
4 Master of the Pearl Trident
4 Merrow Reejerey
2 Phantasmal Image
4 Lord of Atlantis

Spells
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Æther Vial
4 Lightning Helix
1 Counterflux
2 Path to Exile
2 Spell Pierce

Sideboard
4 Vandalblast
2 Stony Silence
2 Rest in Peace
3 Spreading Seas
2 Path to Exile
2 Counterflux

Even though I’m not playing Standard right now, I have to say I’m really excited about the format. It’s balanced and—even though it seems like there’s a deck that is very close to taking the mantle of “Best” (I’m looking at you, Jund)—there really is no clear king of the hill.

That said, the deck I like this week is Esper Drownyard. It does all the things Evil Tim likes to do (wrath and draw cards) and it has the added bonus of spot removal and a Geist Control option.

Esper Drownyard

Lands
2 Watery Grave
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Plains
2 Godless Shrine
4 Nephalia Drownyard
4 Isolated Chapel
4 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
4 Hallowed Fountain

Creatures
2 Restoration Angel
4 Augur of Bolas
2 Snapcaster Mage

Spells
1 Dramatic Rescue
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Supreme Verdict
2 Planar Cleansing
4 Azorius Charm
4 Think Twice
2 Ultimate Price
2 Dissipate
2 Devour Flesh
1 Jace Memory Adept

Sideboard
2 Angel of Serenity
2 Jace, Memory Adept
2 Duress
1 Negate
2 Witchbane Orb
1 Rest in Peace
1 Psychic Spiral
3 Gloom Surgeon
1 Dispel

I like the lack of Detention Sphere here. Replacing it with Planar Cleansing feels great and it gives us a way to deal with other troublesome planeswalkers permanents. I have seen versions running Consuming Aberration as a win con, I’m guessing more for mill than attacking but with 6 main wrath effects (not to mention Snapcasters), I don’t really like him in the deck. Jace, Memory Adept in the main can just outright win games, and I’ve grown to like this path to victory. After playing a few rounds with this configuration, I’m convinced that this is where I’m comfortable in Standard. Who wants to grind out a win with creature battles when the deck has a much better target. Four Nephalia Drownyard means never having to say “Where’s my win con?”

I also like the Snapcaster Mage/Restoration Angel package here. There’s plenty of good targets and Augur of Bolas hits more often thanks to the absence of D-Sphere.

The sideboard is crucial here. There’s a little something for everyone. Gloom Surgeon for the beatdown decks. You have more cards than life, after all. Jace, Memory Adept, Dispel, Negate and Duress for Control—this is sideboarding 101. Witchbane Orb vs UWR flash (thanks a lot, Boros Reckoner) and Dark Naya. Angel of Serenity is quite interesting and is probably good vs most midrange decks, since having two gets around your own wraths.

My favorite piece of tech, though, is the one of Psychic Spiral for the mirror. This is a game changer. Now you don’t really care what the other ‘yard player does. The idea here now is to focus on making him counter spells he thinks are important. Then, once you have some Dispel or Negate backup, SLAM IT BACK DOWN HIS/HER THROAT and yell, “Eat my Graveyard, Coppers!” “It was all a ruse!” is another personal favorite. If your Spiral goes to the yard you still have Snapcasters to get it back, though at that point the jig is up and they know your plan.

All in all, this deck has all the early removal, late game takeover, and mid game resets that control is known for. Naturally, having Drownyard within your own manabase is nice since you don’t have to run Farseek and draw it when you need answers. As with all decks that durdle, you’ll need a little practice so you don’t go to time.

Good luck decking your fellow planeswalker!

Zac Clark, Durdle Magus

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